How to Prepare for Hitchhiking
||How to prepare for hitchhiking: tips for
hitchhiking designed to help You be ready
for hitting the road. The preparation divides
into 3 parts:
- study your route
- choose your luggage & equipment
- get your inner self ready & prevent hitchhiking dangers
In this subchapter, first of the three parts
of my tips about how to prepare for hitchhiking,
I am talking about the benefits of knowing
in advance what your route offers You, such
as where can You have a warm shower, where
can You stop for a break in a petrol station
or bar to have a warm drink and refill your
bottle with water, where can You put your
tent to rest well for the night or where
is the most convenient place for You to buy
Prepare for hitchhiking: study your route
Hitchhiking, as sport, can get so extreme
that You might even get to the point to hate
being on a certain road in a particular moment.
to help me, made me hate being there in that moment and myself for having decided to hitchhike in such adverse weather conditions. I almost thought to head back to Rzeszow and buy a plane ticket to fly directly home when on the opposite side of the road I saw a sign indicating that the closest Slovakian village was 2 km away. I decided to walk to that village on the side of the road through the snow hoping to find a bar, petrol station or coffee shop there to get warmer. That is when a Polish couple heading to Hungary stopped and saved me from the freezing cold of the winter.
In January 2014 I was hitchhiking in the southern part of Poland, towards Barwinek border crossing point with Slovakia.
I started at 5 o'clock in the morning hoping to catch a first class longer ride in a truck, it was still dark outside. The air temperature was -22°C; everything was frozen and covered by circa 1 m of snow. Nobody was driving around, the streets of the town were completely empty, the truck drivers were still sleeping and the only things that were attracting the attention of my eyes in the silent darkness of the early morning were the flashing yellow traffic lights at the crossroad where I was.
After about half an hour waiting my feet were freezing, so I decided to walk to the closest petrol station 15 minutes away to get warmer, then after about an hour I went back to the crossroad and finally the second truck that passed stopped and took me. Though there were only 90 km to the border, because of the adverse weather conditions it took almost three hours to Barwinek. The driver decided to stop for the long break, so I had to find another ride.
At the border it was windy, the blowing snow was reducing the visibility and it was really hard to walk on the side of the road in the deep snow. Many cars and trucks were passing, but nobody stopped and after circa 1h in the blowing snow I was so cold that I was feeling I could not take it anymore. The blowing snow, the freezing cold and the fact that nobody wanted to stop
Because it can get so extreme, every little comfort
that You can
benefit of while on the
road is important
for your health and good
mood. Without being
healthy and without good
mood is not possible
great location to engage folks in conversations,
have a break, and even put your tent to sleep
for the night.
Studying your route in advance allows
You to know where You can find rides easier.
For example, is always easier to find rides
engaging other wonderful citizens in conversations rather
than staying on the side of the road waiting
for somebody to notice You and be willing
to pick You up, so You might want to look
for spots along your route where automobilists stop to have a break or refuel, such as petrol
stations, or if You prefer to get rides in
trucks then You might want to go to parking
areas where truckers stop to sleep or have
the short breaks.
The image shows what a huge service station
on a motorway looks like in satellite view
(click on it to see it better) - this is
Another aspect that can be of your interest as hitchhiker, is noticing where the bigger
cities are located in relation to your route and keep in mind that usually in the
mornings people will drive inbound those
bigger cities as they will go to work, while
in the late afternoon and early evenings
they will drive outbound bigger cities as
they will return to their homes from work.
One last thing that is relevant concerning
your route is the type of road that You will
take: is it a national road going mostly
through countryside (this usually translates
into shorter rides at slower speeds and more
time wasted in finding new ones, but the
benefits are that is possible to easily find
food and water in all the villages and towns
along the road and also to camp pretty much
anywhere), is it an express road or maybe
a motorway (this usually means longer rides
at higher speeds and less time wasted in
changing vehicles, but the disadvantage is
that is possible to find water and camp only
in gasoline stations and is necessary to
carry food in your backpack at least for
the next 24 hours until You reach a new supermarket
located in a good location close to another
In some countries the hitchhiking laws forbid
to hitchhike on motorways, so when choosing
a route is wise to ask yourself "Is hitchhiking illegal on motorways in this country?"; also, on motorways is forbidden to
walk so the access to pedestrians is restricted.
Knowing this type of information when You
intend to hitchhike allows You to prepare
yourself in advance and to better estimate
the time that will take You to cover a certain
When making an estimation about the distance
that is possible to cover in circa 12 hours,
with consideration to all hitchhiking parameters
that can occur in a day, my experience suggests
that the average speed reduces to as low
as 55 km/h; this means that usually in circa
12 hours is possible to cover circa 660 km.
Generally speaking, based on my personal
experience I can say that hitchhiking alone
is always faster than with a hitchhiking
Are parts of your route going through desert or through the
mountains? Knowing this in advance You will
be able to take with You clothes that are
more appropriate for the temperatures and
weather that You will face and will allow
You to make better decisions about where
to stop to sleep for the night. There is
a saying about weather which is absolutely
true when it comes to hitchhiking: "there
is no such thing as bad weather, only bad
Knowing in advance if there are any dangerous predators (like bears for example) in any of the areas cut by your route can prove useful as this way You will be able to make wiser decisions about where to sleep when hitchhiking and backpacking in that specific area.
The study of your route is easy to do using services which provide updated maps and sattelite images, like Google Maps for example.
In this second subchapter, part of my tips
about how to prepare for hitchhiking, I am
talking about the importance of your luggage
and of your equipment.
Prepare for hitchhiking: choose your luggage & equipment
There is no second chance to make a good
first impression. Before starting to hitchhike,
make sure that You are clean and don't look
like anything that can be associated to a
dangerous person in the area where You intend
Quoting a truck driver that I met two times
in two different countries in the same year,
"as hitchhiker You do lots of kilometers
on the right seat, but You do lots of kilometers
on foot as well". Is when You will have no
other choice but to walk that You will have
to be ready to deal with the burning sun
and showering rain in the summers and with
the blowing snow and icy cold in the winters. Even in common circumstances
sooner or later on your route is likely You
will have to walk off-road in order to save
time. Before getting on the road, I strongly
recommend buying a pair of good quality waterproof
hiking shoes and a good quality waterproof
In the winter, hitchhiking is not like going for a walk around town for few hours and then returning to your home and enjoying its warmth. Hitchhiking, You will be outdoors from morning until evening, and if among the things to carry while hitchhiking and backpacking You intend to take also a tent with You in order to save money on accommodation, then is likely You will be outdoors during
the night as well. In the
winter, for this
You will have to wear warmer
what You would normally
wear when going for
a walk around town.
Now I will show You the three ways in which
carrying a small and light luggage helps
You to find rides faster.
First, there are persons
who have little
space in their vehicles
(for example those
who drive sport cars) and
carrying a big
luggage would make it not
possible for those
persons to take You even
if they want to.
she came to me and
said "I would
love to help You but your
backpack is too big
for my car." To
which I replied "Is
not so big, I can
keep it on my lap
- I think I fit on the
front seat together
with my backpack on my
lap". She said
"Sorry, that would
not be safe"
and then she went inside
the petrol station
to pay for the fuel. When
she came out, she
came to me again and said
try". My backpack was
38 liters and I barely
fit on the front seat
of her sportcar keeping
it on my lap. It
was a 100 km ride
and I was glad of having
found it, but that
was not a comfortable
because of other
the driver has only
few seconds available
to pick You up or
drop You and carrying
and big luggage would
make it difficult
You to get in/out
the vehicle in just
seconds. Third, hitchhiking
until evening is
already enough tiring,
big and heavy luggage
would make it exhausting.
I remember that in June 2013 when I was hitchhiking
in Armenia I was
in a small petrol station
and an old lady stopped
to refuel. She was
driving a Mazda MX5
- a two seats sportcar.
As soon as she saw
Moral of the story: a smaller luggage is
better - You will enjoy your trip more and
You will find rides in less time.
As luggage, is way
more practical to carry
a backpack instead
of a trolley or a bag.
Concerning your backpack for hitchhiking, whether You intend to travel as a backpacker for one week or for one
year, the ideal backpack volume is around 40 liters, between 38 and 42 liters.
This way, in case You will have to take a plane,
most of the airlines will allow You to take
for free your backpack as hand luggage with
You in the cabin. Based on my experience
accumulated during the years, the best backpack for hitchhiking is the one that has also a raincover built in - because
there is no waterproof backpack and rainy
days exist (especially when hitchhiking around Europe or in parts of the world where it
rains for several days or weeks in a row) - and that has a separate compartment for the sleeping bag usually placed at the bottom.
Also, to successfully hitchhike You should
always have your hands free, and carrying
a backpack instead of a trolley or a bag
helps in this as well. Remember that hitchhiking
means also walking a lot.
In this subchapter, last of the three parts
of my tips about how to prepare for hitchhiking,
I am talking about your inner self and how
to hitchhike preventing the most common hitchhiking
Prepare for hitchhiking: get your inner self ready & prevent hitchhiking dangers
Some of our fears are caused by the society
we live in, society that has its own rules
and in which people are expected to behave
in a way that mirrors its rules, and sometimes
when we intend to do something that doesn't
really reflect such rules, that is when we
start to be afraid of what might happen if
we actually do what we want to do.
Get your inner self ready
My career as hitchhiker started in 2004 but only in 2009 I decided
to sleep outdoors pretty much anywhere. In
2009, I wanted to go to France and I decided
to try something new, just to see what was
it like - I wanted to sleep outdoors on the
street all the time.
It was something totally new for me and all
the people I talked to, on travel forums
and similar included, told me that I would
die, that someone would stab me while I am
asleep, that someone would steal my stuff
and all this kind of negative things. Obviously,
I was really scared.
In 2004 I started to hitchhike with my girlfriend - it was her idea.
One day, in 2004, this woman told me "Adriano,
to become stronger You must face your fears,
not to avoid them". In 2009 when I felt
so scared about this trip, this piece of
advice returned in my mind and I knew that
this was the right moment to apply it. I
told to myself: "You cannot know what
will be like, but if this is how You pictured
this trip in your mind then You have to face
your fears and do it, because otherwise You
will not be satisfied". So I did.
The first day of my trip
around France was
12th of May 2009 and for
that night I was
in a small village called
in north-western Italy
very close to the
border with France. At
that time I did not
have much experience about
so I just looked for a
place covered from
rain, I put my mattress
on the ground and
my sleeping bag over it
and I used my backpack
as pillow. I was so tired
that my mind did
not have the time to think
about all the
possible negative things
that people said
could have happened to
me, and I fell asleep
Next morning, when I woke up everything was
alright, just as it was when I fell asleep.
The second night, I still had a bit of fear,
but not as much as the first night. From
the third night I felt really confident and
my fear disappeared completely.
outdoors in France for 29
this time I never had any problem
people told me before the
mirror the reality at all. Actually,
times in 29 days it happened to
even invited me to their homes
have a warm meal and a warm
What I want to say with this is that is in
our human nature to be afraid of what is
unknown to us, especially when is something
uncommon in the society we live in, but most
of the times this fear has nothing to do
with what actually the reality is because
it doesn't reflect the reality and is based
only on our imagination. In reality things work out in most of the situations and realistic
can be achieved, but to achieve them,
we must find the courage to face our
and do what it takes.
You must dominate your fears, otherwise they will dominate You.
Many people who never hitchhiked in their life often think that a concrete hitchhiking danger consists in getting in the car with a deranged person. This is unlikely to happen. To obtain the driving license people are required to successfully pass also a medical exam which certifies that they are mentally sane. During the years I was picked by thousands of people and none of them to me seemed having mental problems of any sort. The few unpleasant hitchhiking experiences I had were caused by people who were mentally sane and aware of their own actions - they were simply bad intentioned.
Prevent hitchhiking dangers
I am an adventurer and hitchhiker who spent a lot of time outdoors on the roads of many countries of different cultures hitchhiking by day and at night in any season. Based on my experience the most relevant hitchhiking dangers are:
Now I will go into detail explaining how
to prepare for hitchhiking preventing each
of these dangers.
- being robbed
- become subject to sexual harassment, abuse or assault
- have a car accident
Being robbed happens rarely and between the
three hitchhiking dangers mentioned above
is the most common. As hitchhiking danger
can be easily avoided given that when it
happens is usually because the hitchhiker
didn't take enough measures to prevent
Hitchhiking safety tips about preventing the danger of being robbed
The most common way to be robbed as hitchhiker
is to leave your luggage in the trunk of
the vehicle You are riding instead of keeping
it with You in the car. Just as You read
in my hitchhiking tips that I previously wrote, carrying luggage as small and light as
possible is important as, besides other benefits,
will also allow You to hitchhike more safely
as You will be able to keep it on your lap.
When You get into someone's vehicle, I strongly recommend to always keep your luggage with You and not put it in the trunk of the vehicle. If your driver insists that You put it in the truck, my experience recommends that You refuse that ride as likely You will get into some sort of trouble or dangerous situation.
In May 2013 I was hitchhiking in Poland on the national road 45 that connects Opole with Wielun.
Inside my backpack the only object more valuable was my laptop computer and the previous night after I found a place where to sleep in my tent I changed my clothes putting the dirty ones in a plastic bag inside my backpack on top of everything with the purpose to wash them once arrived in the area of Wielun.
It was a sunny afternoon. At a gas station near Opole a man of about 30 years old offered to give me a ride in his city car as was headed in my same direction. At first sight he seemed okay so I accepted. Before getting into his car he opened the trunk and suggested that I placed my backpack in it. I insisted to keep it with me and after he agreed I got into his car and sat on the front seat keeping my backpack on my lap. After few kilometers our interaction evolved like this:
Driver: What do you have in your backpack?
Me: Nothing special, only food, water and clothes.
Driver: I am black belt in karate, as job I am cop and now I have my gun with me. No smartphone, no computer? I want to see what do you have in your backpack. Open your backpack!
Me: [I didn't say anything and while my instinct told me that he intended to steal my computer I opened the top of my backpack and the plastic bag with dirty clothes to show him while trying to keep hidden my computer that was at the bottom. Immediately, the bad smell of my dirty socks and clothes that were in the plastic bag flooded the ambient.]
Driver [while sensing the bad smell]: Oh! Close it immediately!
Me [with half smile on my face]: [I closed my backpack, waited about 5 minutes until he reached the first village on our way and then got out of the car]
What I learned about hitchhiking safety from this unpleasant experience is that if You have dirty clothes with You, it can be a good idea to put them on top of your other things inside your backpack until You wash them as when You will open your backpack their bad smell may discourage some thieves, just as it happened to me in the experience You read above.
Concerning hitchhiking safety, a general rule that is wise to follow to successfully hitchhike is this: never wear
objects or clothes which
can attract unwanted
attention upon yourself.
On September 17th,
2009 I wanted to go from
Sofia to Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria.
I was aware of
this rule but I did not
respect it. On my
right hand I was wearing
two silver rings
- their value was less
than 10 EUR put together,
That day after three hours waiting for a ride I wasn't so full of enthusiasm anymore and I ignored what my instincts were telling me. I got into the car and sat on the back seat.
Around eight o'clock in the morning I was on the side of the road in Sofia trying to get a ride towards Veliko Tarnovo. I was smiling and full of enthusiasm. The spot was not ideal but okay, yet in almost three hours I was there nobody stopped.
After three hours, somebody finally stopped. Two men, around thirty years old, looking pretty badly and not speaking a word of English. When I saw them, the first thing that crossed my mind was "Adriano, don't get into this car or You might get into a dangerous situation".
After about twenty minutes driving, one of the two men asked: "Passport?"
For hitchhiking safety reasons or simply curiosity, is absolutely normal that a driver wants to see your passport before accepting or refusing to take You in the vehicle that he/she is driving, especially when is You to approach him/her to start the conversation, as hitchhiking is also about mutual trust - the driver trusts the hitchhiker and the hitchhiker trusts the driver.
This time it was not like this - the driver wanted to see my passport after twenty minutes I was in his car and this seemed really weird to me. When I heard his question I immediately understood something was wrong.
I took out my passport and handed it to him. He browsed it and noticed that I was living in a country of the European Union. Then he handed it back to me. After about five minutes he said: "EVRO?", while making the gesture with his fingers indicating money. He wanted me to give him some money. I replied "Nimam evro", which means "I do not have euros". Then he said: "Phone?" - since I had no money, he wanted to have my phone. I said: "No phone", while gesturing with my hands that I did not have any.
Then he kept driving and after about ten minutes, as I was keeping my hands on the upper side of the front seats, he had a quick look at my two silver rings and said: "Rings, beautiful" and indicated with his hands he wanted to have a closer look at my rings. I removed one of my rings and handed it to him. He looked at it and handed it back to me. He kept driving and after another ten minutes he pointed again at my rings making me understand he wanted to have another look at them. I removed my rings and handed them to him. He stopped the car, the other guy got off and opened my door, took my backpack that was next to me and threw it out on the ground and gestured that I should step out of the car. I got out and then they left.
They took my rings. I wasn't upset - I was aware that it was my fault because I did not respect one of the main hitchhiking safety rules and I also did not listen to my instincts which clearly told me not to get into this car.
What You just read is a true story about one of the common hitchhiking dangers: the possibility of being robbed. This negative experience that happened to me in 2009 teaches two important hitchhiking safety rules:
Between these two hitchhiking safety tips,
trusting your instincts is the absolute most
important. Don't misunderstand me: wearing
objects or clothes which can attract unwanted
attention upon yourself has the potential
to get You killed in some areas of our planet.
There are people who died because they dressed
in a way which attracted unwanted attention
upon themselves. But trusting your instincts,
not only about people but about everything
You will deal with in your journey, and using
your common sense in everything You do will
allow You to hitchhike safely most of the
times and have mostly great positive travel
- always trust your instincts
- never wear objects or clothes which can attract unwanted attention upon yourself
Sexual harassment, abuse
or assault happens
more rarely and as hitchhiking
less common than being
Hitchhiking safety tips about preventing the danger of becoming subject to sexual harassment, abuse or assault
Both male and female hitchhikers are sometimes subjects to sexual harassment, abuse or assault and hitchhiking is equally safe or dangerous for both men and women.
To increase your safety, no matter if You are man or woman, if You carry a smartphone with You, taking a photo of the vehicle registration plate and letting your driver know just after getting into his/her vehicle that You are now sending it to your family to keep them informed about where You are and what You are doing will contribute in discouraging your driver from doing anything bad to You.
As a woman, to increase your safety, saying
that You are married and telling a story
which conveys how your husband (real or fictional)
is waiting for You in a specific city can
help You evade unwanted proposals. Some men
think that when women dress sexy is because
in that moment they are looking for sex and
dressing sexy is their way of conveying this
message; to hitchhike safely as a woman,
not dressing sexy and keeping yourself more
covered while hitchhiking will help You avoid
attracting unwanted attention. In some Muslim
countries women who are hitchhiking alone
are seen as women who are looking for easy
sex; if You backpack through Muslim countries,
some women recommend as safety measure to
always wear a period pad whether You are
menstruating or not because once sexually
assaulted the period pad may save You as
many Muslims hold back from intercourse during
Using your common sense and trusting what
your instinct tells You, You will be able
to avoid most of the dangerous situations.
However, there may be times when it will
actually happen to meet someone that will
make You feel uncomfortable through words
or behavior - in that situation You will
have to decide if is the case to leave the
vehicle or not. Trusting your instinct, also
in this case, You will know what to do.
Here is something that once happened to me:
In June 2015 I was in an Iranian truck wishing to get to a city which was at about 200 kilometers from where I was. The driver was an Iranian man of about 65 years old. Inside the truck's deck, between my seat and driver's seat there was almost 1.5 meters of space. Almost immediately after I got in the truck deck, this is what followed:
Driver: Are You married?
Me: Not yet; but I have a girlfriend.
Driver: [shows me the wedding ring on his finger] I am married; but I like sex with both women and men.
Me: Me no. I like only women.
Driver: Why don't you like sex with men?
Sex with men is as nice as it is with women.
Would you like that we have sex? I can stop
the truck, pull the curtains and we can have
Me: No. I like only women. I don't like men.
Driver: [smiles] Your arms have beautiful skin. Do you have hair on your chest?
Me: I am not answering to this kind of questions. Only my girlfriend has the right to know this.
Driver: [smiles] Ah, please, show me your chest. I think you have beautiful chest.
Driver: [while keeping his left hand on the driving wheel, with his right hand tries to grab my shirt to pull it upwards to uncover my chest]
Me: [while still on my seat I try to avoid
it by moving away towards the door and put
my fingers on the door opener ready to open
it to get out] Hey! If You continue I get
out of your truck!
Driver: [puts his arms up in the air like apologizing] Ok kolega! No problem.
Afterwards he continued driving without manifesting other sexual intentions.
For me this was an experience in which I felt uncomfortable and I was ready to get out of the truck if the driver continued to show signs of sexual interest.
Most of the hitchhikers I spoke with about
car accidents, agree that to hitchhike is
equally safe or dangerous as is to walk on
the street. While hitchhiking, a car accident
can obviously happen mostly in two circumstances:
when You are walking or standing on a road
and when You are in someone's vehicle.
Hitchhiking safety tips about preventing the danger of having a car accident
I have seen many car accidents on the roads on which I hitchhiked, and some of these happened to the vehicles that were just in front of the vehicle in which I was. Up to a certain speed, it is proved that wearing the seat belt decreases the chance of dying in a car accident; so wearing the seat belt of the vehicle You are riding no matter if You are staying on the front seat or on the back seat may make a big difference.
Being visible from enough distance is important
for your safety as hitchhiker and in the
same time gives people the few seconds they
need to decide if they want to take You or
not. When walking or standing on a road by
daytime is a good idea to wear a high visibility
vest, while when hitchhiking at night I strongly
recommend to have also lights and make sure
that people see You from enough distance
to be able to avoid You.
vehicles that drive too close to the side of the road. Never walk or stand on the side of the road when hitchhiking at night without having lights on You because to most of the drivers You will be invisible and the space and time needed to avoid You in relation to the speed and weight of their vehicle will be insufficient. There were hitchhikers who died like this. Having a headlamp with You among the things to bring while hitchhiking and backpacking will allow You to hitchhike at night more safely and more effectively. If You use a mobile device please notice that its built in led light is not powerful enough to replace a headlamp; is also not practical: You should always have your hands free ready to use them. I strongly recommend to buy a quality headlamp before starting to hitchhike.
Preparing your hitchhiking backpack before the trip by attaching high visibility reflective stickers to it will increase the chances to be seen by other people when hitchhiking at night and increase your safety as well. Top quality high visibility stickers can be bought from stores which sell truck parts and accessories.
When walking on the side of the road is strongly recommended to walk facing oncoming traffic in order to be able to prevent accidents by avoiding those
Walking on the side of the road at night is extremely dangerous and You should not do it unless You have no other option.
To prevent car accidents when hitchhiking
at night, instead of standing on the side
of the road is more effective and more safe
to hitchhike using the "jumping"
technique that I described in "How to Successfully Hitchhike", going from a place where there are
people always working and lights (such as
a service station that has a built in restaurant
as well) to another similar place where there
are lights and people working.
Your personal safety is your number one priority when You travel. No matter what happens, through your body language You should never convey vulnerability and in the same time You should always prevent and avoid conflicts and dangerous situations. Is unlikely to meet bad intentioned people as long as You use your common sense and try to keep yourself out of troubles. You should not carry any weapon with You when You travel by hitchhiking or just as backpacker, simply using your common sense and trusting your instincts is enough to avoid troubles and prevent dangerous situations in the majority of the areas of our planet. Another aspect is this: avoiding arguing over a topic because of different opinions is a good way to avoid conflicts - if your driver says something that You disagree with, is not necessary to contradict him/her, is enough to answer with a simple "I understand" and nothing more. To hitchhike safely always use your common sense and trust your instincts.
When You are backpacking or travelling by hitchhiking your family and the people who care about You will be worried about your safety. Is not possible to stop them from worrying. If who loves You would not be worried about You, then his/her/their would not be love. If You love yourself then is likely that You naturally take good care of yourself. Convey to who loves You that You are able to take care of yourself and their mind will be more at ease with You being far away from them.
Written by Claudio Adriano Dobre; first in 2012, last updated in 2019. © 2012-2019